Foster Failing

Tammy 2A foster failure is a term we use in animal rescue work to denote, that we, as fosters, have decided to keep our foster dog instead of adopting them out. Of course, it is really not a failure for the dog or us, but a perceived failure of the system of fostering. Fostering involves socializing and teaching an animal to be a good citizen in many areas. Walking on a leash, housebreaking, and any number of behavioral issues, like fear or anxieties and getting along with other dogs and animals, because, as everyone knows, foster people never have just one animal. Everyone has to know their role in the pack. Doing this also helps the dog by making them more adoptable to a good home. Many times, somewhere in that process, the foster decides that they cannot bear to adopt out, and instead, decide to make them a permanent part of the family.

This is what happened to me, again. To be clear, over the past 10 years we have fostered well over twenty five dogs, and out of that, we have failed the adopting out mission five times. This will be number six. A couple of those we fostered with the intention of keeping, all the rest were surprises to us. This latest one was of particular surprise to me as she is not typically the kind of dog that I would ever pick out of a line up. And yet, she started working her magic on me at the kennel when I was looking for a new foster and had walked by her several times; each time she was pleading with me to take her home.

You see, I have always had big dogs and although I love all dogs, I have a horse farm and have always had dogs like German Shepherds and Labs. Our own dogs have always been in the 50-100 pound range, and the same with the fosters. Very rarely did I stray from that ideal. We fostered a cattle dog that soon became ours, but even he pressed the scales at about fifty pounds, in his prime. Several years ago I brought home a cocker spaniel to foster, who was adopted to one of my students within a few months; and then, the most recent time, five months ago, I brought home that Tibetan Terrier who was casting her spell during my kennel walk.

Yes, I had been looking for another personal dog to stand in the paws of my sidekick that I had lost in 2011. He was the perfect dog. About seventy pounds, loved to go for truck rides to different farms that I taught at and I could let him out and he never got in the way of horse training or me giving lessons. He simply would lay down out of the way and wait for me. He got along with all animals, big and small; everyone that met him loved him, and when we were traveling cross country with him, a couple of people even asked if they could have him. He was a foster failure too. Up until now, four years and about eight foster dogs later, I had yet to find one that I not only loved, but could be that same type of dog for me.

Enter, Tammy Tibetan Terrier, hiding in plain sight with me for all these months. She is very good with other animals but is more interested in being with me. Whether it be outside on a nasty wintry day or just hanging in the office, she follows me and is just content to be. She will accompany me in the truck or car and while I run errands, will sit in the drivers seat waiting, keeping my seat warm until I return and send her back to the passenger side. When giving lessons, she is by my feet with no desire to be anywhere else. She was constantly staking her claim as my dog.

Looking back now, I can see that she has been auditioning for a permanent role with the farm family for the whole five months that she has been here. She has been acting her role flawlessly, waiting for me to wake up and see the real plot.

I could blame it on being too blonde or having long term senior moments as the cause, but if I am honest, I have to admit that I had not given her a chance for that role because she did not arrive in the package that I expected or was looking for. She was a small foo-foo type dog and as well as me not taking her seriously, I never considered her for the part. It was not until the mother organization called upon me to update her bio and get new pictures taken of her that I realized she was the dog that I had been searching for since Pierson crossed over.

I have to wonder how many other things that I have not noticed in life, that I have not given proper attention to because of the packaging. Part of me is mad at myself for setting such limits; I never thought of myself as one of those kind of people. No prejudices, I thought, but yet, this eye opening fact remains for me to work on. Not only can great things come out of small packages, but great things can be in any package. Seeing with your heart and not your eyes. Tammy Tibetan Terrier knew this. It will be interesting to see what else she teaches me over our time together.

There Is No Place Like Home

IMG_20150226_133402793_HDRHome. A word that brings up not only images but feelings. Dorothy said it best.There is no place like home.

Working with rescue and shelter animals, I have seen many homeless first hand.Those animals who have lost their families due to no fault of their own. Or perhaps they have never had a real home. A kennel is not a home; it is just a container filled with a life wanting to be seen, understood and given a second chance.To be truly seen, loved and homed; that is what all beings crave and deserve that. I am forever grateful to all the wonderful rescues and sanctuaries that have gone out of their way to help these animals feel the warmth of a real home and finally be seen.

Daily, from the comfort of my car or from a warm building in the city, I see lots of other homeless.These homeless are people.They are everywhere, and are unseen also.They have fallen through the social cracks, down on their luck, or maybe they were once one of us. Maybe once they had a home, and like my husband, who was within a hairs’ breath of not having a job a few years ago before he got rehired, but they found no job and now are homeless. Maybe a serious health problem stripped them of all their savings and home. Maybe they were a veteran, who came back from war and could not find a job to fit their skills, or maybe that veteran has suffered mental illness or physical disability from the time served and was not capable of taking on a job. Maybe it was a mother and kids that are escaping domestic abuse, trading in the lesser of the evils; living on the street instead of with her abuser. There are so many ways, that in an instant, we all can be homeless. I see them as courageous and strong, and I wonder just how long I would go without my home without all its trappings of my own bed, clothes, internet, TV, food, heat, cell phone, etc. without wanting to jump off a bridge. Yet these homeless people do it daily. How humbling and horrifying it must be to have to rely on us and the system for their survival or escape from homelessness. They are still one of us, and it would be good for us to consider seeing ourselves in them.

Have you ever tried to support yourself, let alone, a family on minimum wage? I have a son in Portland Me that has a great work ethic and a good part time job, but only receives minimum wage. He is in line for full time; he has been in that line for the past several years, but it looks like someone has to quit or die before he can move up. So he stays, waiting and worrying that he gets enough work so that he can continue to wait. He lives in a one room studio in the YMCA and he is one of the lucky ones; at least he has a roof over his head and heat during the winter, but he is always just hours away from being on the street.There are many weeks he does not get enough hours at work to eat, pay his rent and get bus fare to work; somehow he gets by until the better weeks roll in.

I wonder how we got to this point of a throwaway society. We throw away pets, animals, and other people. How can we, as a society, turn a blind eye to homeless beings of any species, and how can we deny it? Why we are unable to see the unseen hundreds that are right under our nose. Why their lives do not matter as we scurry about in ours. I wonder if it is fear. Fear that it could happen to us, so if we close our eyes it will not be present with us? Or are we afraid of them; that they may rob us or do us some harm? I think that maybe we fear looking at ourselves; they make us question who we are and what we stand for. What would we have to do to become the person that we would like to be. We are only as good as the weakest member of our society and we are failing. Mother Theresa states that one of the greatest diseases is to be NOBODY to anybody. And yet that disease is all around us. I can see it in myself as I try not to make eye contact.

We may not have all the answers or be able to solve all the problems associated with homelessness, but each one of us can probably do something, albeit a small thing, whether it be animal or people related. Perhaps changing our viewpoint would be a great start and then some hows may show up.

On a brighter note, I did read somewhere in Utah, they are making tiny homes for the homeless to live in that was actually proving to be more cost effective than having homeless people on the street. Then, more impressively, I read about a college student that had built some tiny homes from donations and sponsors that she is going to donate to the homeless in TX. The first home she built she named Ruby from the ruby slippers in the Wizard of OZ, hoping for it to be a catalyst for many families to get back on their feet. After all, there is no place like home.

Offerring Reiki to Sick and Terminally Ill Animals

Chia (2)

Recently, I was asked by a friend if Reiki could work on tumors.  It turns out that his dog may have a tumor or undetectable kidney stones as she passes blood when urinating. She is a doggie favorite of dozens of people that go to our Tai Chi classes. She is our mascot and she oversees all our sessions there. After losing two personal dogs and a foster dog this year, I was hesitant to reply.

Our yellow lab had been diagnosed with diabetes and was blind and was riddled with fatty tumors for about 4 years of his 10 year life. He maintained well and never complained as I gave him his twice daily insulin shots. He refused to be anything different than he was prior to his diagnosis, right up until the day before he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He did not value Reiki much; over the years I offered it to him and he would just leave.  Too much fuss and fanfare for him, just let him live his journey as he thought fit.  I heard him telling me to “just leave him alone” the night that he passed as I was tearfully telling him how much I loved him and would miss him. He was not being rude; he just wanted me to know he was not only  capable of handling his death but that he wanted that right.

Next was our big bull mastiff foster. He came to us obese and full of cancerous tumors, dumped by his family. He, however, loved his Reiki and whenever I was teaching a Reiki class, he was right in line to have some of that energy offered to him. Numerous times over the ten months that we had the good fortune to have him, I thought he was in an active dying stage. I would call my Reiki students and they would offer him remote Reiki and time after time, he rallied up and was great for another few months. He stayed with us until his body could no longer tolerate the assault of his disease. Still, he refused to leave; I offered him Reiki, this time, to comfort his soul for the journey that would part us. He was our foster dog, but he was every bit a part of our family as well as a part of those who frequented my farm; we all loved him and he loved us. He did not mind my tears as we set him free.

Our cattledog was the last one to leave us in 2014. He also loved Reiki and was a favorite of my Reiki students to work on. He would set aside his nervous little self and would completely succumb to the energy for as long as you wanted to offer it to him. He would run to me when he realized that I was starting my personal Reiki healings and meditations to lie by my feet and go into a coma with it. That was a daily ritual for us for several years.  His illness was quick and unexpected. He was his normal self one day then critically ill the next without hope of recovering. He was not a dog to live with limitations; he came into our lives as a rescue in a bright light and left us in the same manner. Reiki again, helped us deal with that time we spent waiting in the ER after making the decision. Peaceful and surreal.

Also this year, I had been called in to help several dogs recovering from their chemo and radiation treatments with positive results. Then, I had several sessions with a dying dog and his family; to help ease his spirit. Although the family wanted him to stay forever, they wanted him to be able to leave when he was too uncomfortable to stay. We all believe that made his transition much easier on him and them. And lastly, another call to assist a friend and her dog as they said goodbye for the last time. In all situations, I feel that the Reiki energy was the glue that held the love in the forefront over such difficult times.

With the experiences that full recovery is not in my control, I skirted the issue of his question because I suddenly I felt the responsibility of saving this dog, and it was huge. How do you explain to someone that “Yes, I can help”, when you are not sure what the long term answer will be, but yet you know you can help? Helping, however, is not is not the real answer we seek; we seek cures, and I am sure that the answer he is seeking is that of a cure.

Why some animals and people live on despite their illnesses, or go into remission, or are lost prematurely, we may never know. In the end, it all boils down to faith in the universal plan of things. Faith is not based on proof but on the belief that all will all turn out as it should. With this faith, we need to remember that what we do that makes a difference even if the difference is not always the one we wanted or expected.

So yes, my answer is yes, Reiki can help tumors. Not just the physical tumors but the mental tumors that hold on to us and grow in us by limiting our faith to only what is known or for sure. It can dissolve those doubts of ‘should have, could have, and if only.’ It can dissolve the tumor of fear and restriction that I felt within me when he asked this question. I can say that Reiki can help and mean it.

**Just for clarity, all the above dogs have been treated by veterinarians.  Reiki assists in helping the body heal itself but is not a substitute for good veterinary care and many vets are in full support of its value to the healing process.**

Leading From Behind

IMG_20150111_133221888Here in Colorado Springs, our winters are fairly mild. We get a dose of cold and snow, then all goes back to 50s and sometimes 60s; even in January, where we are now. Naturally, I am excited to get one of those nice days to brush the dust off my saddle and think about doing something with my young Half Arab. Both of us are getting pretty tired of the arena, even though we have not used it much in the past cold weeks. I look out in back of my barn and scan the 1500acre field that has been calling us. The cattle have sadly departed on that big bad truck to meet their fate, and no antelope to be found. Today may be a good day to take a stroll on that open prairie. All saddled up and as we ignore the arena path and go straight to the field, I can feel the anticipation of my young horse. I sense the pumping of blood from his feet with each of his steps, while my blood is draining from my face and wonder if this was a good idea. After all, the last time I attempted to take him out there with two other horses, it was a ‘hike a ride’ as he was showing off his heritage in his young body: the Saddlebred quarter of him, prancing with legs and head high, and the Arab other three quarters; eyes bugging and seeing all. I had vowed after that day that I would introduce him to the field more regularly, which I had not. This time I came out prepared, with a long line appropriately attached through his bit to a ring in front of his saddle then around to the other side of his bit. A method I had learned from the Jean Luc Cornille clinics that I had participated in this year. I would simply start out on the ground, until it looked safe to mount. I would use this new found tool in an opportunity to lead from behind, allowing my young horse to have some thought in our training process. I wanted to see what he would do and where he may go, if given some say in the matter. As we walked off from the barn and his buddies I saw the investment of this opportunity in his eyes. They were not eyes of a horse that is looking to find a way to get out of this task, but they were the eyes of a horse that is searching for the correct answer. He stepped off slowly with some apprehension and the short steps that go along with that, but as he realized that he was able to have a dialect in this conversation, his steps got longer and the tension he had been carrying, dissolved. I saw his spirit get lighter and the ease of which he walked across this land, was the ease of a horse that may have been out there many, many times; which he had not. We walked out on that huge prairie for over an hour, with neither one of us feeling overwhelmed or tired. It was a huge step forward in our relationship process. We both learned to trust each other just a little more, and did so without any real rules or restrictions on each other; we just shared this huge space while walking together in this new adventure. We came back to the barn in quiet peace and inner happiness of our accomplishment. And it occurred to me upon returning that I never even thought about getting on to ride. I was simply swept away in the moments of time that we were thinking and moving as one. Surely this was nirvana. Later, I thought of how this leading from behind would mean to people. How we talk to each other is an important thing in any relationship. How we express the dialog really does matter. Are we willing to give up the stiff reins just a bit and not ride each other so hard so that we can all see the best of one another?  Lets all make that journey across that field together. Nirvana awaits.

Can Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters Be Friends?

IMG_20140715_152753671_smIn my first post, Out With the Old, In With the New, I mentioned how working with animals daily had led to me finding a more open heart. It had always been easy to find an open heart concerning animals, but I was surprised to find that my heart was also opening to people. Even people that do not share my passions or beliefs. The nameless numbers of people I had never given half a thought to; people that I would have just dismissed, ignored or even feared. And now, I am seeing more likenesses than not; whether we share the same beliefs or passions, we are all integral to each others’ being and to each others’ journey together.

I have joined numerous Facebook groups in order to connect with people that share my passions and beliefs. To name a few: animal welfare, dog and horse rescues, breed specific groups, motivation/inspiration groups, vegetarian/vegan recipes, and a vegan humor page. One thing that stands out in all of the groups is the conflict that goes on within each group. People have different opinions even though they share the same passions. I understand that. But what I did not expect, was to see the anger, and almost brutality in comments on the vegan humor page. And this is where my topic comes into play.

I am not vegan, but had hopes to turn in my vegetarian hat to become more vegan-like one day; to be totally free of consuming any animal products. And it is not as easy as it may sound. Making the decision would be easy, in comparison. Just pick up anything in the grocery store and look at the ingredients and you will know what I am talking about.

It would seem to me that almost every vegetarian or vegan person originated from being a meat eater. Meaning we all shared the same thoughts as a meat eater and probably the same passion for the same recipes. Then something inside shifted for some of us, we could no longer partake in the eating of meat. All of the vegetarians or vegans I have known, or known of, have become so for ethical or moral reasons concerning the animals involved; not so much for health reasons, although that would be a compelling reason to become one as well. Lots of documented, scientific research to support that. But that is another subject all together, perhaps for another time.

For me, my plant eating days started shortly after finishing my first Reiki Master/Teacher course; it was a spiritual awakening that I had been waiting for, although I did not know it at the time. I would mourn for the giraffes, elephants and big cats that had been shot for fun by tourist hunters that I saw posted on Facebook, and my heart sank when I saw the groups of cattle in the back field of my house being rounded up and put on the big one way semi-truck, but yet I could sit idly by and much on my burger. But no more; I could now see that I had been suffering from speciesism, a close relative of racism, but in the animal world. I would never had entertained the thought of eating a cat, dog or horse, as that would have been revolting.  I can only imagine the outrage that would have occurred over that; another Facebook group would be up, only this time, against me. Now I can see that the cow could easily be the horse, the pig could be the dog and the chicken could be the cat. All species were the same. The meat was no longer just a package in the store that I could conveniently pick up; it now had a face with meaning. Finally my actions were aligned with my spirit.

Then take into consideration, the Groups that were started to educate and support that cause. I like people that are passionate about their cause, but some of their comments scare me. Perhaps not scared by the comments, as everyone has a right to voice their own opinions, especially in a public forum; it was the judgement in the comments. Seeing people so invested in being sweet and responsible to the animals could certainly be quite brutal to each other. We pick between ourselves who is the better person, has the best religion, politics, by the way we eat, and the list goes on, even within the groups we support. This system of judgment is a heart closer. It is no wonder that we have trouble being compassionate about the ones that do not share our views. But that does not mean that we should not try.

One mans’ journey is not any better or more important than that of another. We all learn and evolve in our own time through our own experiences.   We can have empathy for each other, as we all have a different path to walk and be happy when we are able to make changes that are good for us as well as being happy for those making their own changes. I say that the meat eater and the plant eater should be friends, we are all in this together.